Update 1: Xiaomi confirms it will be using the Samsung ISOCELL Bright GW1 image sensor for their upcoming smartphone with a 64MP camera.
Budget smartphones are progressing at astonishing speeds where higher-end specifications are brought down to never-before-seen price segments. Pushing those boundaries, Xiaomi and Realme will be showing off their 64MP camera implementations this week, which is expected to debut on their future smartphones.
In the first half of 2019, we saw numerous Android smartphone manufacturers make use of Sony’s 48MP IMX586 image sensor. It was an essential milestone for smartphone photography, not just because of the megapixel count but also because it could change the pixel size while shooting. Natively, the IMX586 has a 0.8μm pixel size spread across a ½-inch 48MP sensor. But when needed, the camera could be shifted to 1.6μm pixel size by combining four adjacent pixels by a technique called pixel binning, resulting in 12MP images. A bigger pixel size helps in better light sensitivity while preserving details.
More recently, Samsung showed off its 64MP Bright ISOCELL GW1 image sensor, which is the industry’s first 64MP smartphone camera. As gimmicky as it may sound, this sensor will help create 16MP images with a pixel size of 1.6μm, which has not been seen before. In ideal lighting conditions, you should be able to click notably detailed pictures at full resolution. It also features real-time HDR, a new generation of phase-detection auto-focus and cinematic 1080p recording at a smooth 480fps.
So, which will be the first smartphone with a 64MP camera?
Realme had already confirmed that this 64MP camera would debut on its upcoming flagship which will have a quad camera setup. There’s still not much information around that high-end flagship except that the Snapdragon 855 Plus could power it. To tell us more about this camera, Realme is hosting a ‘Camera Innovation Conference’ in Delhi on August 8. It’s unlikely that we will get to check out the smartphone, but reference models with that camera array should be available for testing purposes. The company's CEO has teased that the device will be called the Realme 5.
Get ready to witness some of the world's first in smartphone camera technology at the #realme camera innovation event. Stay Tuned as we #LeapToQuadCamera and reveal the world's first 64MP Quad Camera technology on a smartphone. pic.twitter.com/iN6xde6Y7lAugust 2, 2019
Xiaomi didn’t hold back and went on to announce its ‘Images Of The Future’ event where its 64MP quad-camera module is expected to be detailed. Interestingly, Xiaomi has scheduled its event for a day before Realme, on August 7, presumably for bragging rights. Notable leakster Ice Universe suggested that an upcoming Redmi device could be the first smartphone in China to sport this Samsung 64MP ISOCELL Bright GW1 sensor. Xiaomi recently also acquired Meitu, which is known for its AI imaging technology and could play a role in the image processing department. Just a day before the event, Xiaomi confirmed that their 64MP image sensor of choice is indeed the Samsung Bright GW1.
It shouldn’t be long before we see more smartphone manufacturers also adopting this image sensor. Moreover, it is likely to feature on some upcoming Samsung A series of smartphones.
Sure, the image processor may not necessarily equate to better photos, and the hardware is only half the story. Perhaps that is why many consider this to be a gimmick. It’s still a tiny sensor that is trying to render millions of pixels, and the phone will have to rely on a lot of software magic to provide great results. But even without that, it is a commendable engineering feat.